“We’re right back where we started.”
Peter Florrick (Chis Noth) says that to his wife, Alicia (Julianna Margulies), in the middle of Sunday night’s exceptionally strong episode of The Good Wife, the first of the final four episodes of the CBS drama.
It’s an episode that calls back in many ways to the start of it all—the beginning of a series that over its seven seasons has won critical and fan devotion for many things, the least of which is the complex relationship between Alicia and the man who, when we meet her, is in the midst of a public cheating scandal.
When, later in the episode, Alicia is at a press conference with her husband, again in the midst of a public scandal, saying, “I’m standing by my husband again…” it’s a powerful reminder of where this character began and how much stronger she has become. And, as the show approaches its final episode, the line is an emotional reminder that sometimes the best way to end something is to bring us back to the start.
Still, though: Does it really have to end?
“It felt like a show that you had to end,” Robert King, who created The Good Wife with his own wife, Michelle, said during a panel Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival celebrating the show titled “The Good Wife—A Farewell.”
The Kings appeared alongside stars Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry (Cary Agos), and Cush Jumbo (Luka Quinn) to share their favorite memories from the series, discuss its impact, and brace fans for the finale.
“It didn’t feel like a show that you could keep having crazy things happen to you,” King continued. “At a certain point you escape the realm of probability.”
Czuchry, who knows a thing or two about fans’ impassioned reactions to finale episodes from his time on Gilmore Girls, jumped in, saying, “I do think there is benefit in knowing that this is the end and fans are going to get the closure. You don’t always get that with television shows.”
Asked whether fans could expect all the loose ends to be tied up satisfyingly—Alicia’s romance with Jason, her pending divorce from Peter, Peter’s legal issues, the future of the firm—King replied matter-of-factly, “I don’t think the best finales wrap up all the loose ends. They are novelistic. And novels, sometimes there’s a little ambiguity, which is fun.”
He paused quickly. “‘Fun’ is the wrong word,” he continued. “Resonant. You want a last episode that resonates.”
Shooting on the series had only wrapped six days prior to the cast and the Kings gathering for the Tribeca event. Each shared their own memories of reading the final script for the first time. Each anecdote, perhaps characteristically, involved a stiff drink.
“I read it once, and I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I was emotionally confused, I think,” Margulies said. After a second read she talked to her husband about it. “He said, ‘Do you like it?’ I said, ‘I do. It’s so complex.’ He said, ‘That’s exactly how it should be,’” Margulies remembered. “I said, ‘I know you’re right, but I’m sad.’ And he said, ‘That’s exactly how it should be.’”
After a good laugh, she recounted the fourth time she had read the script. The Kings had sent it to her with a bottle of wine with a note attached that said, “Alicia should be drinking while reading this.”
She poured herself a glass and, for the last time, did what she had done for every other script, which is send the Kings a few notes she had about it. This time, she said, she just wrote three words: “Nothing but brilliant.”
In addition to teasing the finale, the group strolled quickly down memory lane. King riotously recalled how the show’s shocking (and maybe best) storyline—the murder of Will Gardner (Josh Charles)—was hatched.
He and Michelle always knew that there would be a death in the middle of the show’s run, he said. “We didn’t know it would be Will until Josh Charles wanted out of his contract and Michelle and I looked at each other and said, ‘Yeah…’”
After the audience simmered down from their eruption of laughter—even Margulies looked scandalized by his candor—he finished, “I thought I was going to be killing one of the children.” It turns out that little Grace and Zach Florrick, quite literally, dodged a bullet.
Asked about the impact she thinks playing a female lead in a drama series so strong and complicated and layered has had on the television landscape, Margulies said that she thinks its success proved the viability of a show led by a woman, and that perhaps that led to scripts featuring female leads that may have been dormant suddenly getting green-lit.
But she also insisted that she shouldn’t get all the credit for that. “I feel like Kyra Sedgwick, when she did The Closer on TNT, I feel like she started that movement because it was the highest-rated show on TNT and it was their cash cow,” she said. “So by the time The Good Wife came along I felt like the network was slowly starting to get it. But I wouldn’t want to take the credit for it. I don’t think I can.”
Each cast member shared their favorite fan interactions. Margulies remembered a man at a Broadway show asking her to represent him in divorce court during intermission, thinking she was a real lawyer. Czuchry recalled a run-in with a big fan in the locker room at the gym... while the man was completely naked. (He was standing, Czuchry was sitting.)
Jumbo laughed at how confused fans seem to be when they approach her on the street and she responds with her native British accent.
But the conversation naturally led back to the finale on May 8, with fans desperate for any details on how things might end. For her part, Michelle King addressed an Internet rumor that Josh Charles might be appearing in the finale somehow.
“I heard that rumor. I also heard other rumors about the finale,” she said. “I heard that Peter is going to be starting another affair. I heard that Alicia and Eli kissed. I heard that Alicia and Jason ran off happily together. And I heard that Michelle Obama guest-starred. And I will tell you that one of those is true.”
Jumbo, a self-described superfan of the show before she became its newest cast member this season, assured fans that they had nothing to be worried about.
Everyone will be satisfied, she said, and everyone should trust the Kings. “They’re not going to let you down. They’re not going to just sleep with you and walk away. They’re going to cuddle you for a while…” She paused for dramatic effect: “And then they’re gonna leave.”